Preparing for...

08 May 2011
09 May 2010
09 May 2010
16 April 2009 | Thames Estuary
01 February 2009
21 January 2009

New Site

08 May 2011
I have created a new site for my adventures.

You can now find me at

Catching Up(2)...

09 May 2010
Continuing from where I left off...
After a few weeks of having a mechanic try to get the old Sabb started and having very little luck, I ended up purchasing an outboard and a mount. Installed the mount and the 6 HP Tohatsu outboard with the help of a colleague and a friend of his during a fun weekend even if there was no sailing.
The next step was 50 miles to Dieppe, all of it under power and with a very interesting crew member. While in Boulogne, I met the captain of a 70 ft charter sailing boat that had been blocked in Boulogne by the Duanes (french customs) because the owner had not paid the VAT on the boat. He agreed to sail (or motor) with me to Dieppe and after several hours of listening to everything I needed to change on my boat, I wasn't terribly upset to not make the next 25 or 50 mile leg to Fécamp or Le Havre on Sunday.
About a week later I returned to Dieppe, this time with a young colleague who had never been sailing before but who was motivated to try. About 30 mins out on a downwind passage of 25 miles, he started feeling ill and never really recovered. Well, that isn't totally true, he was feeling better for about 45 mins when he took the helm and proclaimed, "Je suis marin!" The minute we pulled into the breakwater in Fécamp he quickly informed me that he just couldn't do it anymore and although he was sorry, there was no way he could go out again on Sunday.
That night, the wind blew all night long from the north at about Force 5 and 6. I had decided the night before that I was doing the final leg to Le Havre "en solitaire"! I now think that maybe, just after a couple of glasses of rum, is not the ideal time to make such a decision. In any case, we woke up early the next morning (although I hadn't really slept hearing the wind howl all night long and more than once getting up to check the weather forecast) and I was off. Once out of the breakwater I realized there was no going back. I rolled out the genoa, and the boat was off like a racehorse. We were surfing the waves at times 10 kts over ground (the help of a bit of current) and I made Le Havre (25 miles) in 4 and a half hours. At Le Havre, I learned of my permanent berth and Ceta was 'home' for the first time.

Catching Up...

09 May 2010
So 2009...the first year with Ceta.
I just read the last blog I wrote over a year ago and I would really like to blog more regularly this year. Also, a lot went down in 2009 that I should also catch up on a bit. trip March/April 2009-
I got the old Sabb engine running with the help of the mechanic from West Mersea and left in the early afternoon. My goal in leaving was to make sure that I would have a rising tide to get over the "spitway" as several people had warned me that it could be interesting since the sand bottom doesn't always stay where is starts - I had tentative plans to go to Burnham on Crouch. Long story short, ended up anchored at the mouth of the River Crouch, eating dinner, unsure of fuel reserves, and waiting for the tide to turn before motoring into Burnham in the cold dark night.
Next day - Rest, get fuel, eat some fish and chips, and wash the boat.
Third day - Sail early morning out the River Crouch, across the Thames Estuary and make it to Ramsgate. Everything was going according to plan more or less, some great sailing, a bit of sun a bit of clouds not a whole lot of water crossing over a sand bank but I made it. These days, knowing more about the sandbanks in the Thames Estuary I am quite lucky that I didn't lose my boat in this crossing. I could have easily been grounded and with the waves getting larger, not a good situation. Just after lunch, after I had recently become aware of several tankers that my crew failed to tell me about while I was navigating, I noticed some fog start to roll in. I had a worried look on my face which the helmsman noticed, with the force of wind mounting, he says, "This beats having sunshine and no wind!"
"Actually, the problem is that now, those ships that you failed to tell me about, we can't see th"
"Speaking of ships, TOM, THERE IS A SHIP!!!"
Rising out of the companionway, I look ahead of us at about 200m to see a ferry traveling at about 15 kts. "Ok, we are going to tack, NO, we are going to gybe. Gybe NOW!"
"GYBE?? But you said th"
"GYBE NOW!!!!" was my quiet response.
I had previously warned my crew of the dangers of uncontrolled gybes but since I had control of the main sheet, I figured we would be fine and I was worried that a turn with Ceta's long keel wouldn't quite make it through the wind.
After trying to get ahold of the skipper of the Ferry who nearly ran us over on the VHF, I put out a call to any ship in the area to try to get some idea of where these ships were, since I realized I was in the middle of the Princes Approaches...the main entrance to the River Thames. I must have sounded scared shitless on the VHF because I soon heard a call, "Ceta, Ceta, Ceta, this is Dover Coast Guard, do you read?" Hearing the question and answer from the coast guard, "Nationality? Vessel Description? How many souls aboard?" my crew assumed we were in deep shit and that they were coming to get us. Then they heard, "Have a safe passage and a safe watch!" and realized that we were once again, on our own.
Around 4:30 PM we pulled into Ramsgate through a ridiculous fog bank with seas getting up to about 2m. We were all exhausted and the crew was thankful for a days rest the next day.
Fifth Day - We left Ramsgate in the early morning and headed out for my first crossing of the English Channel. I contacted the Dover Coast Guard just before entering the Traffic Separation Zone to ask if there was any fog reported since the forecast included, once again, "Visibility: Moderate to Good, Occasionally Poor" With no fog reported we headed across to France. We had an absolutely fabulous beam reach across to Boulogne sur Mer! Just before entering the outer harbour of Boulogne I went down to start the engine...Nothing! After several attempts using a battery that seemed almost dead and hand cranking, I called for help. some nice gentlemen in an SNSM boat came out, threw use a line, towed us in, and had us at the dock in about 1 hour overall (with only a bent lifeline stantion). Next morning, up early, try to find a battery charger, buy a new battery, install it, and again, nothing. Crew left for Paris and I stayed with the boat.

First days on the water...

16 April 2009 | Thames Estuary
The next few posts are coming a bit late but I will try to date them in the text...

So the goal of the week was to sail from West Mersea, Essex, England to Le Havre, France where I am on the waiting list for an annual berth (actually, I am on several but Le Havre is the shortest). My crew consisted of Robert, who had only done some racing in lakes in the States and his 20 year old son Dillan, who had sailed probably 2 or 3 times in his life on a Laser and a Hobie Cat. It would prove to be an interesting week.

Friday, March 13, 2009
On my way from Paris to West Mersea to get a couple things done on the boat before the crew arrived on Saturday, I called the sailmaker in West Mersea who was supposed to have finished my new mainsail cover. I come to find out that because he hadn't measured the boat before it went in the water that the cover wasn't finished...this bummed me out. When discussing what to do we got cut off several times (I was on a train in the English countryside) so I just figured I would give him a call when I got there.
I get to West Mersea and take a look at Ceta sitting out on her mooring which was much better than on stands in the yard, where I had only seen her before. Anyway, the tide wasn't quite high enough for the launch to take me out to her so I occupied myself by getting the dinghy from the other side of the yard and put in the water and waited a bit for the tide to come up.
I tried calling the sailmaker again but couldn't get through for some reason. After a few minutes, the tide was high enough and Rob from West Mersea Marine got me and my 8' fiberglass dinghy out to Ceta using the launch. As he pulled away he said, "have a nice trip", and that was that. I was on my boat and left to my own devices to get her to France...oh shit.
The plan...leave Sunday for Ramsgate; Monday clean the boat up, fill tanks, provision, etc.; Tuesday across the channel to Boulogne sur Mer, Wednesday to Le Tréport, Thursday to Fécamp, Friday to Le Havre...this left a couple days in case we needed to stay in port for weather or minor breakdowns or whatever.
My crew was due to arrive on Saturday around 3PM so I had about a full day to get some provisions, get the engine started, get the boat prepared for sailing, figure out what to do about my new but unfinished sail cover, and get to know the boat a bit.
First thing was to try the engine. I hadn't started it on land for various reasons so this was my first time. I put some oil in the cup and the cold start tube (old Sabb particularity) and turned the key. The flywheel spun around but it just didn't sound like anything was happening correctly. After several tries and lots of oil through the cold start tube she started to actually sound somewhat like and engine but never fired. I gave up on that and figured I would try a little later.
Next thing, get the old Seagull outboard started for the dinghy so I could get to shore. This happened fairly easily so I fiddled around a bit and then took a trip to shore for some provisions, taking the oars of course. About halfway to shore the seagull quit and I was forced to row. Not a big problem for me, but the dinghy just didn't row very well...still got to shore in any case. I figured the gas needed changing as it had sat in the little tank for probably over a year...not a huge deal but frustrating.
I set off to buy some stuff, including some tools (I didn't have any metric wrenches), and I gave the sailmaker a call to figure out what we were going to do. He suggested that someone come measure the boat on Monday and have the cover ready by Wednesdaybut that wasn't going to work since I was planning to leave Sunday. Then he decided to ask his man if he could get out to the boat that day and I said I would call him back.
Ok, off to the supermarket...a few hundred meters down the road I get a call from the sailmaker. Turns out his man measured the boat last week and the cover is ready to be picked up...I was exhilerated. I turn around directly to head to the loft to pick it up (and pay). After the bad news about the cover not being done, the engine not starting, and the dinghy engine dying on me, I was glad to have some good news...maybe my luck was turning around.
Back off to the supermarket...I walked around a bit, picked up some items, had some fish and chips, and then headed back to the boat and immediately put her new sailcover on. With her new clothes, she was looking better already!
I fiddled around the boat some, cleaned up, organized some lockers, and tried the engine luck. I figured I would call an engineer on Saturday morning.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Saturday morning...tried the engine one more time and just grew more frustrated. Decided that I should go to shore for some more provisions and figured that I could time the tides so that I could row with the flood in and then wait for my crew, due to arrive around 3PM, and row with the ebb out. Planning is always a good thing...
I walked around the coast area and tried the number of a couple engineers and couldn't get ahold of any of them. I did actually talk to someone who told me the engineer was on a scaffolding and I should call back later. OK, off to town again...
I picked up some more provisisons and when I got back to the dinghy I called the engineer and finally talked to him. He suggested that I try some Ether (Quick Start) from the chandlery in the air intake. So, I head into the Chandlery for about the 4th time in two days for a can of ether.
By now, it was about 3PM so I was expecting my crew to have arrived in Colchester and they should be in West Mersea in less than a half hour. A quick call...voice mail...hmmm.
I was excited to try the quick start and with no news from the crew I decided to head back out to the boat and give it a try.
When I got back to the boat I couldn't figure out where the air intake was. Unfortunately, I wasn't looking at the right manual so I had no chance of finding it. I called the engineer and he said he could make it out to the boat on Sunday around 10 AM and he sounded confident that we could get it started relatively easily...excellent! Another call to my crew revealed that they didn't take the flight they had told me they were goign to take and would therefore be arriving in West Mersea around 7:30 PM. This was a bit frustrating as I had planned for further provisioning when they came back....fuel and water are not easy to carry among bags of graceries.
So, I fiddled around getting some more stuff done and organized. I also set out splicing eyes in my newly purchased mooring lines. Everything was going well when I got the call from the crew that they were in Colchester so I then set out rowing into shore to pick them up. By now it was basically dark and low low tide. I was unsure if I would have enough water at the pontoon or not but I had to try to get them. Anyway, they arrived around 7:30 and we were off to the boat. We had dinner and I learned that Dillan is deaf in one ear and I asked for any other physical or health problems that I should be aware of...nothing.
At this point, I knew that the engineer was coming Sunday morning and that even if he got the engine started it would be too late to leave for Ramsgate but I figured we could go sailing in any case...if the engine started...and at least get to a marina with water and electricity. This way, I could clean up the boat and get fuel and not have to spend the extra day in Ramsgate...still essentially on schedule.

Ceta Technical Information

01 February 2009
I just wanted to put down a little technical information about the Halcyon 27, and some information specific to Ceta. Most of this information comes from the website of the Offshore Yacht Class Owners' Association.

Designer: Alan Buchanan
Year: 1972
Built By: Offshore Yachts
LOA: 27'0"
LWL: 20'3"
Beam: 7'8"
Displacement: 6800 lbs
Ballast: 3000lbs
Headroom: 6'0"
Auxilliary Engine: 8-10 hp Sabb G Series (I think)

So that gives a very brief overview of the boat.

A New Adventure

21 January 2009
In times past, I have been terrible at keeping weblogs. I love reading them but writing one myself has never proven continually successful. I also love reading sailing/cruising/sailboat renovation websites although I have never attempted to keep a log of any such adventure - due mainly to the fact that I haven't really had such an adventure. Well, that is to say, in my adult lifetime. I have sailed most of my life off and on, although quite consistently in my youth on Lake Erie on my dad's 1969 Ericson 30.
So now it is time to embark an a new adventure. I am currently living in Paris as an expatriate and I have purchased a boat in Essex, England. My short term plans are to bring the boat to France, most likely at Le Havre, and sail for the few remaining years I have in France. After that, I have other ideas which include taking a leave of absence and cruising for 6 months or more and one day cruising permanently. My goal with this blog is to keep track, mainly for my own memory, both the miles under the keel and the repairs/upgrades I perform on Ceta, my new-to-me 1972 Halcyon 27. However, I reserve the right to write about whatever is on my mind...although I will commit to keeping it somehow tied to the dream.
I am taking a trip up to the boat this weekend so maybe when I get back next week, I will have something more interesting to say!
Vessel Name: Ceta
Vessel Make/Model: Halcyon 27
Hailing Port: Fort Walton Beach, FL
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Ceta's Photos -

Port: Fort Walton Beach, FL